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Five Tips for CIOs Leading Remote Workforces

Unexpected circumstances call for creative responses from leadership, and remote work is no different.
Jacquelyn Adams
Contributing Writer

As a CIO, you are used to having the answers in your back pocket.

Crafting data-driven solutions to increase company ROI is just your way of life.

Issues arise? No problem!

You eat five different business plan pivots for breakfast as responding effectively to change is the standard operating procedure as a CIO.

……and then there was a global pandemic.

Now, companies both large and small are struggling to create stability and adapt their plans to keep up with the uncertain world around them. Developing an ironclad, long-term strategy is a way of the past; old solutions for how to lead no longer apply.

Now more than ever it is vital to acknowledge these changes and provide your teams with the tools and leadership that they need to face the challenges ahead.

Outlined below are critical leadership tips for talking to your team about how you plan to forge forward:

Show Authenticity

To genuinely connect with your employees, it’s crucial to show authenticity. With social distancing keeping us physically apart, we are relying more heavily on technology to authentically connect with and engage our employees. Now is not the time for heavily scripted speeches and corporate whitewashed messages. Instead, employees need to feel that their fears and concerns are understood by you as a leader. Before starting a virtual meeting, do a quick status check on your own stress level and your current mental and emotional state. It’s impossible to be genuine with others when you don’t even know where you’re at with yourself. This exercise will help you stay truly present as you deliver your message, and your employees will notice the difference.

Be Candid

Optimism is great, but pie in the sky ideas are not. Honestly and openly acknowledge the situation for what it is. We can’t ignore feelings of fear, gloom, or anxiety, but there is no need to drown in them. These are uncertain times and we are all dealing with issues that most of us have never faced. When you openly address the situation and all its difficulties, your team is more likely to trust in your message.

Foster Kindness

During times of turmoil, compassion and kindness are the building blocks of a stable foundation. In this work-from-home structure, most of us have already experienced kids screaming during a conference call. Life is an extra scoop of messy right now. While slacking off is not ok, it is necessary to recognize the surplus of uncertainty in our daily schedules. If you are struggling with how to implement this tip, consider asking compassionate questions rather than making accusatory statements. Instead of saying, “You did this wrong/missed that meeting/are late for this deadline,” you could start with, “This isn’t following the structure that we previously discussed. What do things look like on your end?” Asking and listening are both keys to fostering workplace kindness.

Be a Voice of Reason

Yes, the future is still unclear, but you can explain your ideas for moving forward. Your plan doesn’t have to be specific; even an outline of a plan will be comforting. Guidance provides security and helps your employees buy into your business goals. By delivering your message with confidence and injecting calmness into conversations, you empower your team to rise above the uncertainty and unite.  

Champion a Cause

This last step is perhaps the most important of them all. What is the rallying cause that your whole team can get behind? State this mission clearly. Create a powerful call to action. You could choose workplace safety, expanding your company’s services to better fit customers’ needs at this time, or a plethora of other worthy objectives. The options are endless, but the results are the same: coming together to build a better world through your business.

These tips will help unite your team re-center your business’ goals. As a leader when you model kindness and authenticity, you set the stage for a work environment that mirrors these ideals. While leading through challenging circumstances, you must exemplify the strength and flexibility you expect in your employees. During these trying times, there is a great opportunity for growth.

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